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NBA Saturday: Scout’s Take on 2014 Draft

An NBA scout breaks down the 2014 NBA Draft class and gives his take on prospects like Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker among others

Alex Kennedy

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As the 2013-14 NBA season winds down, it’s clear that a number of teams are already looking ahead to the 2014 NBA Draft. At this point, certain teams seem more concerned with getting ping pong balls than wins, which is understandable considering this is a very talented class that may include a number of franchise-changing players at the top of the draft board.

NBA decision-makers have now had months to evaluate the draft’s top prospects, so executives and scouts have a pretty good read on each player. While March Madness will certainly influence their opinions as well, the sample size is big enough for people in NBA circles to break down a player.

Basketball Insiders wanted to see what NBA talent evaluators are saying about this draft class and its top prospects, so we caught up with an Eastern Conference scout to get his take on the 2014 NBA Draft. The scout spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the situation.

On the 2014 NBA Draft as a whole:

“It’s a good draft. There isn’t a consensus prize at the top of the draft – no LeBron James or Derrick Rose or Kyrie Irving – which means the team that gets the No. 1 pick will have a difficult decision to make.

“This draft is much, much better than last year’s draft. There’s no doubt about that. I believe this draft class will have multiple All-Stars, whereas last year’s draft may not produce a single All-Star.

“Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle have failed to live up to expectations, but they are still very talented players. They may not have played as well as everyone hoped this season, but they all have a chance to be special players and have long, successful NBA careers. Even though they didn’t blow everyone away, they are all so young and they all have a ton of potential.

»In Related: 2014 NBA Mock Draft

“There’s no question that this is an important draft. A lot of teams are hoping to land a player that they can build around in this draft. It’s also a big deal because of the importance of rookie deals in the new collective bargaining agreement.

“In a draft like this, with so many intriguing prospects, the best pick may be No. 3 or No. 4 so that you can just see who falls to you rather than having to make that tough choice.”

On Andrew Wiggins:

“He’s lightning quick and he has one of the best first steps that I’ve ever seen. He doesn’t get his shoulders low, he stands straight up and down and is kind of mechanical when he plays. He also has a tendency to settle for jump shots. He’s extremely athletic, though, and he can get by anyone.

“I’m not sure about his body language. He’s not a pouter or anything, but it just seems like he’s either happy or overwhelmed. I’d like to see him get angry and fired up. I really haven’t seen any competitive emotion from him.

»In Related: Tanking in the Draft Rarely Works

“I think he has a high ceiling, but I don’t think he’ll be a LeBron James or Kevin Durant type of player like some people are projecting. I could see him making a major impact on a team because he is such a great athlete, he can get by anybody and he shows flashes of brilliance. Every so often, he’ll make an incredible move and then you just don’t see it again for a long time. That consistency has to improve.

“He was put in a difficult position this year because all eyes were on him and the expectations were through the roof. He failed to live up to the hype, but he can still become a very good player who has a successful career in the NBA.

“He’s still so young and has so much room to grow, so it’s difficult to say what his ceiling will be. I’ve heard some people say that his upside is Tracy McGrady or Paul George, which makes sense. I could also see him becoming a lot like Rudy Gay.”

On Jabari Parker:

“Jabari is a player who scares teams. You’re scared to pass on him because he has the ‘it’ factor, smoothness and intangibles. Nobody says a bad thing about him. Even players in the league who know him speak very positively about him. He seems like a great kid and someone who would be great in a locker room. He’s very talented.

“The reason you’re scared to take him is because there is a history of players who played the four in college whose games haven’t translated to the NBA, such as Michael Beasley or Derrick Williams. There’s some concern that he’ll struggle and become a tweener. The best thing for him is that players like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Paul Pierce have been moving over to power forward lately and thriving in the position, because it shows teams that having a player like that at the four can work.

»In Related: The Top 10 Players in the NBA

“Still, there are questions about Parker’s body and athleticism. He’s not the quickest guy and his athleticism has been questioned. He’s had some explosive moments, but there are a lot of times when he doesn’t look like a good athlete. Teams will likely want to change his body and conditioning once he gets to the NBA.

“He was shooting the ball really well early in the season, which skewed his numbers, but he has come back down to earth lately. I think he’ll be a very good player in the NBA, but I don’t know if he can be a franchise-changing savior that some people peg him to be. My NBA comparison for him is Paul Pierce.”

On Joel Embiid:

“He has had the biggest impact on this draft so far. Entering the season, the conversation was about Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle, and then scouts starting falling for Embiid. Scouts were falling in love with him and then looking over their shoulder hoping that no other teams were noticing how great he looked. Obviously, he kept improving and the secret got out.

“He’s able to do so many things at his size that nobody else can. He has amazing footwork, great athleticism, nice touch and a beautiful stroke on his shot. He may have the highest upside in the draft because he still has so much room to grow.

“His footwork reminds me of Hakeem Olajuwon and his power, outside shot and skills remind me a little of Patrick Ewing. He could be really, really good.

“I do think the pressure of being hyped up as the consensus No. 1 pick did start to get to him a little bit. He hasn’t been the same player recently. Yes, he’s had the health issues, but he doesn’t seem as loose and his demeanor has changed. A team will definitely have to look into his background and learn about him before using such a high pick on him.

“The back issue is kind of scary too for a big man. You never want to see that in a young center. The team that picks him will have to look into that and make sure it’s not something that’s going to limit him.”

On Dante Exum:

“I have seen him play live a limited number of times, but I have to say that he’s really intriguing. He has a legitimate chance to go No. 1 in this draft. He’s that good. His upside is enormous. I won’t be surprised if he goes No. 1 on draft night. If we land the No. 1 pick, he’s a guy who we’re seriously going to look at.

“There is nothing that suggests that he won’t be a great player. He’s athletic, he can shoot and he can handle the ball. He’s incredibly versatile. He really can play three positions, which is attractive to a lot of teams. I’m excited to watch him develop and see what kind of player he becomes.

»In Related: Fraschilla Compares Exum to Jordan

“He hasn’t played against great competition yet, but he’s a phenomenal prospect and I think his game will translate well to the NBA. I think he’ll be an All-Star in this league.

“When I see him, I think his upside is Anfernee Hardaway. I could see him being a similar type player, someone who is able to impact a game in many ways and cause a lot of problems for opposing teams.”

On Julius Randle:

He’s a man, and he won’t get pushed around by other players. He has the ability to face up and take guys off of the dribble. Right now, he’s left-hand dominant, so he must work on his right hand and keep improving his jumper if he wants to take the next step and really wreak havoc.

“I really think he’s someone who will benefit from playing with a better team. If you watch Kentucky, their point guard play and shooters have been bad, which has made things really tough for him. The team is a mess. It’s a chaotic situation since there isn’t much leadership and the group is so inexperienced.

“He should be able to play in the league for a really long time, but the question is how good will he be?

“People around the league are really interested to see how he measures out – how tall and how long he is. You’d love if he could play the three to utilize his ball handling and skills, but that’s not his game.

“When I look at Randle, I see some Jamal Mashburn and some Paul Millsap.”

On Marcus Smart:

“He’s one of those guys who has been over scouted. It’s tough being under the microscope for two seasons. He’s had to deal with tons of pressure. With that said, you could put him in an NBA game right now and he’d be alright.

“He’s a great athlete, very strong, and I really like his game. His shooting will come along, the question is how much? He’ll benefit from having NBA talent around him at the next level; that should help him as a facilitator and he won’t have to carry the scoring load like he is now.

“Look how bad that team was without him. I think that says a lot about his impact on a team. When I see him, I see a mix between Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups in terms of his body type and leadership and fire. I think he’s going to be a very good player. He has All-Star potential.

“A lot of people have asked me if I’m concerned about the ‘fan pushing’ incident. Not at all. Honestly, I kind of liked it. I love that he gets fired up, that he gets that competitive. Others may not have liked it, but I love the intensity.

“His decision to go back to school this year says a lot about who he is. The biggest fear for an NBA team is that we’re going to draft a kid and then he’ll lose his hunger right when he gets a paycheck. I’m not worried about that with Smart. He had a chance to get a payday last year and turned it down because he wanted to stick with his team and keep improving at the collegiate level. That says a lot about him.”

On Noah Vonleh:

“Vonleh is a very interesting player. He needs time to develop, but he could end up being really good. I would definitely say he has All-Star potential. The upside is there.

“He can score with both hands, he has an outside shot and he’s a long, great athlete. He hasn’t had the chance to be a go-to guy at Indiana because their point guard shoots the ball a lot, but this is a kid who has all of the tools to be very special and he’s so young.

“Because he just turned 18 years old in August, it’s easy to see why a team would fall in love with him. He’s younger than a lot of the other prospects at the top of the draft, and he just has so much potential.

“He hasn’t gotten the same amount of attention as some of the other players on this list, but he’s definitely someone to keep an eye on. A few years from now, he could be one of the best players from this class and an All-Star. The tools are there for him to be great.”

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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The Best of the Undrafted Players

David Yapkowitz breaks down the best players who weren’t drafted in Thursday night’s NBA Draft.

David Yapkowitz

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Ben Wallace, Raja Bell, Avery Johnson, David Wesley, John Starks; those are just a few former NBA players who didn’t hear their name called on draft night, yet went on to have pretty impressive careers.

Each year there are a few undrafted players who end up making a team’s roster and turn out to be solid contributors. This past season, players like Ron Baker of the New York Knicks, Yogi Ferrell of the Dallas Mavericks, and Derrick Jones Jr. of the Phoenix Suns went undrafted in 2016 yet ended up as regular rotation guys for their teams. In Ferrell’s case, he became a starter.

With the 2017 NBA Draft come and gone, here’s a look at some of the top undrafted players who might be able to strengthen a team’s roster.

Johnathan Motley

Johnathan Motley was the best player on a Baylor team that was a No.3 seed and made it to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament. He averaged 17.3 points per game on 52.2 percent shooting and pulled down 9.9 rebounds per game.

At 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds, Motley is definitely in the mold of a versatile wing player who can play multiple positions and thrive and in today’s NBA. What he needs to do, however, is improve his outside shot. He shot only 28.1 percent from three-point range. One crucial aspect for hybrid forwards is to be able to step out and hit long range jumpers.

His stock often fluctuated in various mock drafts; some had him going in the first round, others in the second. Per The Vertical’s Shams Charania, Motley signed a two-way contract with the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday.

P.J. Dozier

P.J. Dozier was one-half of South Carolina’s star duo that helped propel them to a Cinderella run to the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament. The other half, Sindarius Thornwell, had his name called, but at the end of the night, Dozier was still waiting.

Only a sophomore, Dozier was the second leading scorer for the Gamecocks with 13.9 points per game. He was always projected to go in the second round on most mocks and perhaps he came out a bit too early. The talent is there though.

He can have success as a team’s combo guard off the bench. He will need to work on his shooting though. He shot only 40.7 percent from the field, 29.8 percent from three. He’ll be in summer league with the Los Angeles Lakers, and from there will hope to entice a team to bring him to training camp.

Melo Trimble

Melo Trimble might have been one of those players that needed to strike while the iron’s hot. Two years ago, he was talked about as a probable first-round pick had he declared for the draft after his freshman year at Maryland. Instead, he stayed until his junior year and his stock fell.

He actually turned in an impressive junior campaign with 16.8 points per game, 3.6 rebounds, and 3.7 assists. He shot a respectable 44.4 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from three-point range.

Trimble will play summer league with the Philadelphia 76ers, and like most undrafted free agents, will look to turn his performance into a training camp invitation. He probably projects to be a backup point guard should he find a place in the league. He had first round and possible lottery talent before, however, so maybe all he needs is an opportunity.

Devin Robinson

In today’s game, where teams put a premium on versatile, do it all type players who can play multiple positions, Devin Robinson certainly fits that description. Robinson is a long, athletic forward who can step out and hit outside jumpers while locking up his opponent’s best wing scorer.

Florida had a surprisingly solid run in the NCAA Tournament and Robinson was a big part of that. His junior year, his best year yet, saw him average 11.1 points per game on 47.5 percent from the field and 6.1 rebounds. He showed a much improved outside shot, connecting on 39.1 percent of his looks from downtown. In the tournament, he upped his averages to 28.3 points on similar shooting percentages.

Robinson will be in summer league with the Washington Wizards, a team that often times lacked production off their bench last season. Depending on how he performs in summer league, don’t be surprised to see him on the Wizards roster come opening night.

Nigel Hayes

Playing in the shadow of Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker in years past, Nigel Hayes was given an opportunity as a senior at Wisconsin to show what he could do as the focal point of an offense. His numbers didn’t jump off the page, but he did play well enough to be given a shot at making a team’s roster.

His 14 points per game were good enough to tie teammate Ethan Happ for the second leading scorer on the team. As a power forward, he was actually the second leading assist man with 2.7. One area he’ll need to improve on to make an impact in the NBA is his outside jumper. He shot 39.6 percent from three his sophomore season. This year it was down to 31.4 despite taking a similar number of attempts (2.5 and 1.9 respectively).

Hayes looks to be one of those players in between positions. He lacks the quickness and range to thrive at small forward but is a bit undersized at the NBA level for power forward. He is an incredible energy player, though, and players like that have been able to carve out nice careers. He’ll be in summer league with the Knicks, and given their current state of affairs, they need all the help they can get.

L.J. Peak

In the mock drafts that projected him to be drafted, L.J. Peak was most likely going to be a second round pick. That’s not to say he doesn’t have first round talent. He’s a big guard that can play both guard positions.

Despite Georgetown’s futile record this season, Peak was a standout. He was the team’s second-leading scorer at 16.2 points per game on 48 percent shooting from the field. He was also their top playmaker, dishing out 3.5 assists. In the NBA, he most likely can find a role for some team as a combo guard off the bench. He only shot 32.7 percent from the beyond the arc, however, so if he wants to make an impact in the league that’s one area he’ll need some work.

He’s set to go to summer league with the Houston Rockets. Depending on what roster moves the Rockets make, it will be tough for Peak to make the final team. They already have two guards capable of playing both guard spots off the bench in Lou Williams and Isaiah Taylor. Taylor’s contract isn’t guaranteed, but he probably has the inside track due to his familiarity with the team. In any case, a strong summer showing should lead Peak to a training camp invite with another team, if not the Rockets.

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NBA PM: Losers Of The 2017 NBA Draft

Who were the two parties who came out of draft night worse off than they went in? Spencer Davies explores.

Spencer Davies

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As the book closes on the 2017 NBA Draft, the league takes a bit of a break before going full throttle into the free agency portion of the off-season.

Before we get there, though, Basketball Insiders will take a look at the winners and losers of Thursday’s draft to get you caught up. Our own Benny Nadeau already took care of the former, so this piece will focus on the two parties who came out of the night worse off than they did going into it.

Early Entrants Going Undrafted

The amount of talent in this year’s draft class was undeniable, so those that decided to come out of college too soon instead of returning to school for another year suffered tremendously.

Let’s take a look at some notable undrafted players that entered as underclassmen:

Kobi Simmons

Simmons was an interesting story this past season with the Arizona Wildcats. It was a difficult one-and-done season for Simmons, as he had trouble converting on the perimeter (33 percent) and contributing anything other than scoring.

In the first couple of months as a freshman, he was basically an every game starter and played at least 28 minutes per game for the team. As the year wound down, though, the 6-5, 175-pound shooting guard barely saw the court, and the time he was given came during blowouts.

His decision to enter the draft was questionable and a gamble, and most teams saw it the same way. Luckily for Simmons, he was reportedly able to come to an agreement with the Memphis Grizzlies on a free agent contract.

P.J. Dozier

A player that surprisingly didn’t get selected was P.J. Dozier from South Carolina. In his sophomore season, the 20-year-old swingman took on a much heavier workload and dramatically improved his game on both ends of the floor.

Dozier was one of the best defenders in the SEC and in the entire NCAA, as well as an aggressor on offense. He was not bashful and took his new role in stride. Over the course of one year, he attempted six more field goals per game and upped his three-point success by 8.5 percentage points.

He also snatched almost two more rebounds per game and averaged nearly two steals for the Gamecocks. Dozier going undrafted was a head scratcher, but the Los Angeles Lakers made sure he landed on his feet with a deal.

Isaiah Briscoe

Briscoe is more of a hybrid type with a bulky build for a backcourt player. In two seasons under John Calipari at Kentucky, he was pretty consistent with his game as somebody who will give you a little bit of everything.

He’s not particularly a good shooter, but he can get some rebounds and dish it out to make the right plays. You’ll see that with when he’s playing for the Philadelphia 76ers in Summer League.

Antonio Blakeney

Blakeney—a sophomore guard from LSU—proved that he can shoot the basketball and be a pure scorer (17.2 points per game) when given the opportunity, but what about the defensive end of the floor? He’ll need to work on that, as well as his all-around game that won’t make him a one-dimensional threat.

He hasn’t received an offer from a team yet, but he’ll likely get a chance to showcase his talents in either Orlando or Las Vegas.

The trend here seems obvious—if you’re a shooting guard and haven’t gotten at least three years of college experience, it may not be wise to declare. Executives understand that they need players with the “do-it-all” quality and not just pure scorers that can’t bring more than one or two skills to the table.

Chicago Bulls

Over the past week, the writing seemed to be on the wall for Jimmy Butler and his future with the Bulls. There were rumors all over linking him mainly to the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the dark horse candidate to land the All-Star was the one to pull the trigger.

After the first selection in the draft was made, the Minnesota Timberwolves came to an agreement with Chicago that reunited Butler with his former coach of four years, Tom Thibodeau. The deal came a few weeks after an exit interview regarding the team’s direction that reportedly went well.

The 27-year-old’s trainer didn’t hide his displeasure about the move, but it’s understandable from the perspective of VP of Basketball Operations John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman, who strived to “set a direction” for the franchise.

However, what they received in return for Butler was not nearly enough for a man that is just now entering his prime as one of the best two-way players in the game today. In exchange for Butler, the Wolves sent Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine to Chicago. Furthermore, the Bulls were able to move up nine spots in the draft, but it cost them their 16th pick to do so.

LaVine is as exciting as a player as any young talent in the NBA, but he’ll enter the season coming off a brutal ACL tear that ended his year prematurely. It will probably be a little while before the 22-year-old sees the floor, and, as the centerpiece of this trade, it’s definitely risky not knowing how he’ll respond to the injury.

While Dunn could have plenty of promise as the starting point guard of the future, his rookie season in Minnesota left a lot to be desired. The only defense of his inclusion as one of the key pieces in this transaction is being a top five pick in last year’s draft with untapped potential.

With the seventh overall selection, Chicago drafted Lauri Markkanen out of Arizona. In his lone season under Sean Miller, the seven-footer was a key cog in the Wildcats’ run in the PAC-12 and NCAA tournaments.

The talent is clearly there as a sharpshooting stretch four or five, but with Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic already in the mix at power forward, the fit may be a problem. He could see some time at center, but remember, Robin Lopez, Cristiano Felicio, and Joffrey Lauvergne are holding down the fort there, too.

Markkanen’s situation will all depend on if qualifying offers are made to Mirotic, Felicio, and Lauvergne.

To add the cherry on top of the Bulls’ rough night, they excited some fans of the organization when they took Jordan Bell out of Oregon early in the second round. That hope quickly diminished when the Golden State Warriors paid $3.5 million for the pick, and Chicago agreed to send him to the Bay.

Bell was one of the sexier names in the draft for a good reason, but the money was more important to the Bulls, who will have some more decisions to make this summer with their veterans on the roster likely not wanting to be a part of the rebuild.

Without their superstar of the last three years, and still with an inexperienced head coach like Fred Hoiberg to develop the young talent brought into the organization, it’s going to be a little while before basketball is king again in the Windy City.

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Hawks Didn’t Expect John Collins To Fall To 19

Newly-minted Atlanta Hawks GM Travis Schlenk had a relatively easy decision drafting John Collins at 19.

Buddy Grizzard

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During Travis Schlenk’s first NBA Draft as Atlanta GM, fortune smiled as center John Collins of Wake Forest, a player rated highly on Atlanta’s draft board, fell to the 19th pick.

“Through the whole week, we had guys ranked, and he was the highest guy there,” said Schlenk to assembled media at the Omni Hotel, adjacent to Philips Arena. “We thought he’d go a little higher. We had a couple options on the board to move back, but once we saw that John was going to be there, we didn’t entertain any of those.”

Schlenk added that Atlanta also tried to move up but was unable to execute a trade.

“We did have some conversations about trying to move up,” said Schlenk. “We had one player that we targeted that we really wanted to move up for but were unable to do so.”

The process of building the team’s draft depth chart was collaborative, Schlenk added, which meant Collins’ selection was by consensus rather than by decree. Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer was among those whose input factored into the selection.

“I have a lot of faith in the group that was here before I got here,” said Schlenk. “They’ve been a huge asset to me coming in here in the middle of this process. As I’ve stated all along, I view Coach Bud and I’s relationship as a partnership. It doesn’t do us any good to take a guy that he doesn’t like, so he’s got a voice in it for sure.”

Schlenk was asked about areas where Collins needs to improve and didn’t shy away from questions about his defense.

“That was kind of the knock on him at Wake Forest,” said Schlenk. “But a lot of times, especially in college — when you’re the main focal point — you’ll see the best offensive player doesn’t want to get in foul trouble so he can stay on the floor. We interviewed him in Chicago. That’s what he said: “Coach Manning said, ‘Don’t get in foul trouble, I can’t afford to have you off the court.'”

The Hawks GM also talked about Collins’ shortcomings as a shooter.

“One of the first things we’re going to work on with him is a jump shot,” said Schlenk. “In college, all his scoring came in the post. And he’s got a good post game. We just need to extend his range out, especially the way we play and the way the league’s going.”

But overall, Schlenk was extremely positive about the opportunity to add a player with the upside of Collins, a player who is far from a finished product.

“Last year you saw his athleticism, and then the big jump that he’s made from his freshman year to his sophomore year,” Schlenk said. “Obviously, being the most improved player in the ACC, you see the growth he’s made. And he’s still a 19-year-old kid, so there’s still a lot of room to grow.”

In the second round, Atlanta selected shooting guard Tyler Dorsey, who shot 56 percent from three and averaged 23 points during Oregon’s run to the Final Four. The Hawks also selected 6-10 French center Alpha Kaba of Mega Leks, a likely draft-and-stash candidate. With Collins’ youth and lack of polish, it may take some time to judge Schlenk’s first draft. But fortunately for him, the decision was a relatively easy one since the team didn’t expect Collins to fall all the way to 19 where Atlanta could grab him.

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